We are quickly making our way through the Season of Ordinary Time this year and are already observing the 30th Sunday of the season this weekend. Our Gospel reading from St. Luke follows immediately upon last Sunday’s Gospel. We are given the second of two parables on prayer found in Luke 18. The first parable was the story of the unjust judge who finally gave into a widow’s requests as the only way to get her to stop pestering him. Her persistence was held up as a quality to admire and an example of God’s persistence with us. No matter how many times we have tried to put God off, God is always right behind us. God never gives up on us. That’s the first lesson when it comes to prayer – never give up, because God never gives up on us.
Today we are given the second parable – the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went up to the temple at the same time to pray. Two differing attitudes are held before us now – righteousness and humility. As we listen to a very familiar parable, we are invited to consider whether we resemble the tax collector or the Pharisee, and then choose a course for the future. Hint: the righteousness of the Pharisee (self-righteousness) is not an attitude that belongs to a disciple of the Lord Jesus. God’s righteousness, which welcomes and loves every honest and contrite heart, settles upon the prayer of the tax collector. Only when we recognize our total dependence upon God can God then generously dispense mercy and justify us in a way we could never merit on our own.
Thank you for your prayers for us and all of the priests of our diocese as we gathered with our Bishops last week for our Joliet Diocesan wide Priests’ Retreat. When he first came to us as our Bishop, Bishop Conlon asked that we come together during the year between our Priests’ Convocations and spend some significant time in a retreat together. This was our second Joliet Diocesan wide Priests’ Retreat. It began on Monday evening and concluded on Friday at noon. Both Bishops and all of the priests of the diocese were there. We gathered at the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House and the Conference Center at Mundelein Seminary. Msgr. Brian Bransfield, the General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was the director of our retreat. He gave a number of presentations centering on our retreat theme: “Compassion: the Thirst of God. Mercy in the Life of the Priest.” During our time together we celebrated a Mass that included the Anointing of the Sick. We celebrated a Penance Service with an Opportunity for Individual Reconciliations. On Thursday evening we had a dinner with our seminarians and honored those celebrating significant anniversaries this year. Again, thank you for your prayers. We certainly remembered you!
The Retreat was a great experience for all of the priests of our diocese to be together with our Bishops. The spectrum ran from those newly ordained to those retired. As a group, we have a wide variety of talents and abilities. Despite these differences, we are all committed to doing the work of the Lord, each in our individual place and time where God has put us. .
Personally for me, it was good to see several of the priests I had served with in previous parishes. As we shared our memories, it became very clear to me that each of us had all been in the right place at the right time in our lives. Our prayer times together were powerful, especially the Masses we concelebrated with the Bishop. Everyone arrived at Mass on time, no one left early and everyone sang!
On a more sober note, I couldn’t help but notice that many of the priests who were young and vibrant when I was ordained 38 years ago were now moving at a much slower and more deliberate pace. And there were those who were no longer with us, either through death or those who have left active ministry. Overall, it was good to be together for prayer, sharing and fellowship.
We continue our observance of Respect Life Month during this month of October. Several years ago our bishops designated October as Respect Life Month. Throughout this month, we are called in a special way to reflect on the gift of human life, the threats against it and how we can protect all persons from conception through natural death. We have several opportunities in our parish to put our Respect Life values into practice. The Knights of Columbus are currently wrapping up their “Baby Bottles for Life” project. If you still have a baby bottle, please bring it back next weekend. We continue to pray for our expecting couples on our “Expecting Couple’s Prayer List.” We have several ministries that promote our Catholic Respect Life values – ministries like our Eucharistic Ministers to our nursing homes, PADS, our food pantry opportunities, to name but a few. We respect human life from conception through natural death through our prayers and in our actions.
Thank you to our St. Isidore Grade School Board who sponsored and put on our First Annual Casino Night & Chili Cook Off last Saturday night. The chili samples were awesome as were the additional food options. The Cubs game was projected on a big screen and a “W” made the night. The different Raffle Packages were great. I couldn’t’ help but notice the broad range of parishioners who were there. It was truly a cross-cut of our parish. So often when we hear that something is sponsored by our Grade School, we think it is only for Grade School parents. Not so the case with this event. If you weren’t there, you missed a wonderful evening. Thank you, again, to all who worked so hard to pull off this “First Annual” event.
As autumn continues, God’s hand is apparent all around us. Let us take time to notice the beauty. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy